Best Chain Restaurant Meals for Pregnant Women

We poured over the menus of ten of the country's most popular restaurant chains with the help of three nutrition professionals: Jessica Dogert, R.D., in Chicago; Rachel Brandeis, R.D., in Atlanta; and Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., in Washington. Here are the 30 winning picks. 

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1. Panera Bread

Couple at Panera Bread

This upscale café is the perfect place to stop for a bite when you're out test-driving strollers and choosing car seats.

Best Vegetarian Pick: Lentil quinoa bowl

Even hard-core meat eaters should try this dish, Scritchfield says, because it's jam-packed with baby-friendly ingredients such as fiber-rich lentils, egg, kale, and spinach. 360 calories/12g fat

Most Satisfying Salad: Strawberry, poppy-seed, and chicken salad

This yummy pick gives you filling protein from antibiotic-free chicken, plus vitamin-packed strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, and pecans on a bed of romaine lettuce. 350 calories/13g fat

Best Comfort Food: Tomato-mozzarella flatbread and vegetable garden soup

Our experts approve of this healthy grilled-cheese- and-soup combination, which includes more greens and veggies than the classic version. 480 calories/22g fat

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2. Boston Market

Boston Market Meal
Courtesy of Boston Meal

For pregnant women who crave homey food but are too tired to cook, this take-out place will warm your tummy.

Best Comfort Food: Roasted turkey market bowl

No need to wait until Thanksgiving! Treat yourself to the mashed potatoes and gravy, and choose fresh steamed vegetables as your other side. 480 calories/21g fat

Biggest Protein Punch: Rotisserie chicken

Pair the quarter portion's juicy skinless breast with sides of steamed vegetables, garlic-dill new potatoes, and cranberry-walnut relish. 530 calories/11g fatMost Satisfying Salad: Southwest Santa Fe salad

Spice up your roast chicken with fixings like onion, corn, cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, and chipotle dressing. 530 calories/30g fat

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3. Applebee's

Susan Montgomery
Susan Montgomery/

The chain's "Have it All" entrées are full of flavors that satisfy.

Best All-Around Meal: Pepper-crusted sirloin with whole grains

This dish, dubbed by Brandeis a "nutritional home run," includes iron-rich meat, whole grains, mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes. 350 calories/10g fat

Strongest Swimmer: Savory cedar salmon

This plate packs omega-3s for your baby's brain and eyesight, and the lemon-artichoke spread is delish. 540 calories/32g fat

Biggest Protein Punch: Napa chicken and portobello mushrooms

You'll get a whopping 50 grams of protein in this vitamin-rich dish. 500 calories/16g fat

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4. Olive Garden

Olive Garden Meal
Courtesy of Olive Garden

The portions served at America's most popular Italian-style chain are ginormous. Some tip the scales at 1,500 calories, and that doesn't include the famous bread sticks. Order wisely from these menu options.

For Your Carb Craving: Tricolored vegetable penne with five-cheese marinara and chicken meatballs

Our experts put together this combo from the menu's "Create Your Own Pasta" section. The chicken meatballs help keep the calorie count down, but it's still a big meal, so take half home. Half-portion: 510 calories/23g fat

Strongest Swimmer: Baked tilapia with shrimp and parmesan- garlic broccoli

Light, flaky tilapia is a tasty fish option if you're not a fan of salmon, and the shrimp adds even more protein. 360 calories/12g fat

Biggest Protein Punch: Garlic rosemary chicken

This flavor-packed dish, found on the "Lighter Italian Fare" menu, comes with parmesan- garlic mashed potatoes and calcium-rich spinach to help build your baby's bones and teeth. 540 calories/20g fat

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5. Red Lobster

Red Lobster Meal
Courtesy of Red Lobster

Strap on your own bib, Mama! As long as you avoid high-mercury species like swordfish, shark, and mackerel, you can (and should!) eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week.

Strongest Swimmer: Broiled wild-caught flounder or sole with baked potato and asparagus

Wild-caught fish usually have even lower amounts of mercury than farm-raised varieties. And the baked potato has less sodium and fat than mashed or fried. Instead of butter, top it with low-fat sour cream. 385 calories/6g fat

Worthy Indulgence: Whole Maine lobster with wild rice pilaf and steamed broccoli

Want to feel like you're on a sailboat in Maine? This protein-packed shellfish will do the trick. Instead of dunking forkfuls of lobster in butter, Brandeis suggests you ask for a side of cocktail sauce and dip the shellfish in that. 450 calories/9g fat

Biggest Protein Punch: Wood-grilled peppercorn sirloin and shrimp

Can't decide whether you're in the mood for steak or fish? This lean sirloin topped with grilled shrimp gives you a healthy taste of both. Go for steamed broccoli as the side to keep the fat and calorie count under control. 610 calories/29g fat

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6. Chili's

Chili's Meal
Courtest of Chili's

Skip the nachos and check out the tempting options in the "Lighter Choices" section.

Biggest Protein Punch 6-oz. Classic sirloin with grilled avocado

Not only does the sirloin provide lean protein and iron, but it's topped with a sliced avocado, which contains fiber (to help keep you regular) and folate (crucial to preventing birth defects). Served with a green salad and garlic-roasted tomatoes, this dish is Dogert's favorite pick from all the meals that we reviewed. 410 calories/20g fat

Strongest Swimmer: Mango-chili tilapia

A habanero mango glaze and more of that nutritious avocado (with healthy fats for Baby's cell development) are combined with citrus-chile rice and steamed broccoli for a delicious dish that's both sweet and spicy. 520 calories/18g fatBest Comfort Food: Bowl of Terlingua chili with a fresco salad

This meal is higher in fat than other picks, but the beef and beans pack a lot of protein, and the salad adds a healthy crunch. 530 calories/38g fat

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7. Chipotle

Chipotle Meal for Pregnant Women
Courtesy of Chipotle

Design your own meal at this trendy Mexican grill.

Best Vegetarian Pick: Salad with organic sofritas, pinto beans, vegetables, brown rice, roasted chili-corn salsa

This spiced tofu concoction is seriously yummy. 580 calories/19g fat

Biggest Protein Punch: Burrito bowl with chicken, black beans, brown rice, vegetables, cheese, tomato salsa

Dig into a tortilla-less burrito bursting with fiber, protein, and flavor. 650 calories/22g fat

For Your Carb Craving: Burrito with steak, vegetables, black beans, tomato salsa

If you prefer to eat with your hands, skip the rice. 650 calories/8g fat

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8. P.F. Chang's

P.F. Chang's Meal
Courtesy of P.F. Chang's

Take a seat at this Asian-inspired chain to indulge your craving for spicy, tangy flavor.

Top Tummy Soother: Ginger chicken with broccoli and quinoa

Scritchfield gives the thumbs-up to this fresh take on a classic dish. Ginger is a soothing antidote for bouts of nausea and will also help control your blood sugar. 610 calories/8g fat

Best Comfort Food: Vegetable lo mein

Noodle lovers can down an entire portion of this classic dish, which contains vitamin-rich vegetables, and still stay well under the recommended calorie limit for a meal. 490 calories/6g fat

Best Vegetarian Pick: Stir-fried Buddha's feast

This colorful dish serves up antioxidant-rich vegetables and tofu for protein and calcium. 420 calories/17g fat

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9. Cheesecake Factory

Cheesecake Factory Burger
Courtesy of Cheesecake Factory 

This chain—best known for sugar bombs—has added more light options.

For Your Carb Craving: Skinnylicious chicken pasta

This entrée sneaks in protein, fresh tomatoes, and basil. Feel free to finish the plate! 540 calories/30g fat

Best Vegetarian Pick:Veggie burger

Dogert gives top marks to this high-fiber sandwich. 590 calories/10g fatBest Comfort Food: Grilled steak medallions

Juicy meat, potatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms sound decadent, but you'll still have room for a few bites of some cheesecake. 590 calories/15g fat

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10. Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse Meal
Courtesy of Outback Steakhouse

Step away from the gut-busting blooming onion! It's meant to be shared, of course, but you know you'll eat more than you should (who can resist?). Dig into these Aussie entrées instead.

Best All-Around Meal: Grilled chicken on the barbie with mixed veggies

You'll get to dip into the BBQ sauce without guilt—and say "on the barbie" when you order. 460 calories/13g fat

Biggest Protein Punch: 6-oz. Special sirloin

This satisfying steak is one of the most flavorful cuts and just the right size. Pair it with veggies and a house salad. 588 calories/33g fat

Strongest Swimmer: Perfectly grilled salmon with mixed veggies

The preg-friendly salmon is rich in omega-3s, and the seafood seasoning is mouth-watering. 535 calories/35g fat

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